Cell phone unlocking will be legal again

In 2012, the Library of Congress ruled that you couldn't unlock your cell phone from your carrier without their permission. Congress has finally passed a law that will make it legal again.

Back in October 2012, the Library of Congress, which oversees how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is enforced, ruled that cell phone unlocking without your wireless carrier's permission was illegal. Cell-phone users were not happy, and, in July 2014, Congress finally listened and is giving users back the right to unlock cell phones.

No matter who makes your smartphone, soon you'll be able to unlock it legally whether your carrier wants you to or not.

The Library of Congress decision was never popular. A We the People petition asking that unlocking cell phones be made legal quickly gained popularity. A little more than a month afterwards the White House's R. David Edelman, senior advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy, replied that as far as President Obama was concerned, "neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation."

In early 2014, the Federal Communications Commission and major US phone carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless —made it easier for users to unlock their phones. But Derek Khanna, a Yale Law Fellow who follows and comments on telecommunications policies, observed that while, "This is terrific news....it will still keep the technology itself...illegal."

It won't be against the law for much longer.

Sina Khanifar, who started the unlocking petition, strongly approved of Senator Leahy and Senator Grassley's bipartisan cell-phone unlocking bill, the “Unlocking Consumer and Wireless Competition Act.”

The Senate passed the bill the week of July 14 and House of Representatives passed it unanimously on July 25.

Obama is expected to sign it immediately.

In a statement on the We the People petition site, Obama wrote that the "Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget."

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